Despite discussing rave culture on a regular basis, we’ve never focused on rave music as a genre. Our logic is simple: rave music isn’t a genre, any more than you’d say that ‘festival music’ or ‘nightclub music’ are genres. In practice, rave music is complicated: different eras and different geographical locations might associate rave culture with entirely different styles of music.
We’ve covered some of the most popular rave-related genres already in this column – most notably acid house and jungle – but it’s time to shine the light on a crucial (and often overlooked) style which dominated European rave culture at one point. This is hardcore.
Hardcore sounds began to emerge around 1990, growing primarily out of techno but also to some extent from acid house. Unfortunately for the purposes of this column, it’s not a straightforward story of a single new sound emerging, but something a little more complicated, with various different strains of hardcore developing in different countries simultaneously. As a very broad rule of thumb, hardcore represented producers and DJs cranking up the tempos, focusing on tougher, darker sounds with big, often distorted kick drums, and drawing on influences from other genres like industrial, Belgian new beat and EBM.
In the UK, breakbeat-driven hardcore such as 2 Bad Mice’s Bombscare paired techno and house sounds back to a functional, almost minimalist perfection. From the USA, a slightly more expansive take on the sound was typified by tracks like Joey Beltram’s Mentasm, with its aggressive Roland Alpha Juno ‘hoover’ bass sound which went on to be a staple of hardcore.
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